When the WTO Comes to Montreal


Perhaps the first time most people heard of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was in November 1999, with a meeting of the WTO in Seattle accompanied by protests. The protests certainly made for some colourful media coverage, with much talk of ‘violent protests’ (little mention of violent police) and news headline catchphrases like “The Battle in Seattle”. But there was also, for the first time in North America, some serious discussions in the media about what the WTO is, and what it does. People began to note that the WTO can decide that health, environment, industrial and social policies adopted on our behalf, by our governments, are trade barriers that must be struck down. People in the United States learned, for example, about a WTO ruling against a U.S. law aimed at conserving endangered sea turtles- a ban on shrimp caught in nets without a turtle-exclusion devices.

Fast forward to 2003. In Montreal, a WTO mini-ministerial meeting has been hastily convened by Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew, for July 28-30, to prepare for this year’s big meeting in Cancun, Mexico. And, once again, protests are being planned in the hope that the resulting confrontation will put the WTO on the national agenda.

It shouldn’t have to be this way. Considering the importance we attach to our economy and to our public services, you’d think that a far reaching global agreement affecting the way we work and do business would have been discussed seriously what is supposed to be democratic society before we’d signed on to it. No such luck. The WTO came into existence in 1995, but how many people in North America had even heard of the WTO prior to the Seattle protests?

Since its 1995 inception, the WTO’s guiding principle has been that it’s unfair to make a company wanting to do business in another country adapt to that country’s requirements. Instead, the country must be made to adapt to the company’s requirements. Now Canada is negotiating with other countries on reducing ‘trade barriers’ on services. This means getting rid of foreign ownership limitations, local hiring requirements, and restrictions on profit repatriation and capital flight. In other words, transnational companies are to be given more power and fewer responsibilities – the ‘free market’ in the name of ‘free trade’.

The worst thing about WTO rules is how they lock us into this free market model of economic development. It’s one thing to elect a government that believes in free market policies. It’s quite another to be bound to such policies, so that electing a more interventionist government makes no difference. Who ever asked the citizens of Canada if they wanted to live under WTO rules? Who are the people who come up with these rules, and in whose interest? These are questions that need discussion. Instead, the government of Canada is embarking on another round of WTO negotiations, without consulting the people of Canada.

In such a context, protests against the WTO of the sort that will happen in Montreal July 28-30, are a messy, inconvenient necessity.

PAUL BEAULIEU is a Montreal-area theatrical activist working with Montreal Mobilization Against the WTO. He can be reached at: pinadeau@planet-save.com

November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving
Joseph Grosso
The Enduring Tragedy: Guatemala’s Bloody Farce
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Imperial Myths: the Enduring Lie of the US’s Origin
Ralph Nader
The Joys of Solitude: a Thanksgiving!

Joseph G. Ramsey
Something to be Thankful For: Struggles, Seeds…and Surprises
Dan Glazebrook
Turkey Shoot: the Rage of the Impotent in Syria
Andrew Stewart
The Odious President Wilson
Colin Todhunter
Corporate Parasites And Economic Plunder: We Need A Genuine Green Revolution
Rajesh Makwana
Ten Billion Reasons to Demand System Change
Joyce Nelson
Turkey Moved the Border!
Richard Baum
Hillary Clinton’s Meager Proposal to Help Holders of Student Debt
Sam Husseini
A Thanksgiving Day Prayer
November 25, 2015
Jeff Taylor
Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism
Dana E. Abizaid
Provoking Russia
Oliver Tickell
Syria’s Cauldron of Fire: a Downed Russian Jet and the Battle of Two Pipelines
Patrick Cockburn
Trigger Happy: Will Turkey’s Downing of Russian Jet Backfire on NATO?
Robert Fisk
The Soothsayers of Eternal War
Russell Mokhiber
The Coming Boycott of Nike
Ted Rall
Like Father Like Son: George W. Bush Was Bad, His Father May Have Been Worse
Matt Peppe
Bad Policy, Bad Ethics: U.S. Military Bases Abroad
Martha Rosenberg
Pfizer Too Big (and Slippery) to Fail
Yorgos Mitralias
Bernie Sanders, Mr. Voutsis and the Truth Commission on Greek Public Debt
Jorge Vilches
Too Big for Fed: Have Central Banks Lost Control?
Sam Husseini
Why Trump is Wrong About Waterboarding — It’s Probably Not What You Think
Binoy Kampmark
The Perils of Certainty: Obama and the Assad Regime
Roger Annis
State of Emergency in Crimea
Soud Sharabani
ISIS in Lebanon: An Interview with Andre Vltchek
Thomas Knapp
NATO: This Deal is a Turkey
November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”